By The Old House Web


There are many preparations necessary in taking a vacation. In the excitement of planning, often necessary care of the living things that will remain behind is a neglected provision. Plants, both indoors and outdoors, must receive proper care throughout the vacation!

Before leaving on vacation, water all houseplants thoroughly. Place the plants in a location out of direct sunlight; cutting back their light supply will slow the plant's growth so that less water is needed. Enclose the plants in clear plastic bags to hold in moisture, however plastic also holds in heat, so be sure the plants are out of direct sunlight. Place the clay pots containing houseplants on unglazed bricks in a bathtub or laundry tub filled with a few inches of water. The pots will absorb moisture through the bricks; however some light must be available for the plants to keep living. Houseplants that are put outside for the summer will survive best if they sunk into the ground in a shady spot, or if they are taken indoors.

Vacation lawn care is also important. Before embarking on your vacation, water the grass deeply so the soil is moist to a depth of three or more inches. Mow the lawn shortly before leaving. Cut it shorter than normal but avoid scalping the lawn (this occurs when more than one third of the length is removed); as this predisposes the grass to burn out in dry weather. In an average summer, these procedures will carry the lawn through two weeks. If heat is unusually intense or the vacation long, alternate lawn care should be arranged. Upon returning, cut the lawn longer than normal to avoid scalping. A few days later, mow again at the normal height.

Vegetables should be checked carefully for pest problems and treated pre-vacation. Warm weather stimulates such problems, and if not treated before leaving, a full-blown invasion may occur. All ripe or nearly ripe fruit should be picked; overripe fruit produces rots, promoting disease and insect problems. Such plants such as cucumbers or beans stop production if seeds mature. Weed the vegetables thoroughly and mulch them before leaving. Mulching with grass clippings, compost, or leaves will prevent some weed problems, and will slow the evaporation of moisture from the soil, thus requiring less watering. It is important to make sure the soil is moist to a depth of three to four inches.

Remove the seeds and spent flowers on all flowering plants before leaving. Remember, many annuals will stop blooming if their seeds are mature. Water the plants well, to a depth of three inches or more. Most established ornamentals will be okay for about three weeks without care.

Depending on the time of year, fruit may or may not require any special care. Apples or other tree fruit that require frequent spraying may require someone to spray them during the vacation time.

If the vacation will last for longer than two weeks, a "plant sitter" may be recruited with specific directions as to what is to be done.


Nancy J. Butler, "Weed `Em and Reap", June-July, 1984, MSU Cooperative Extension Service.

Caroline T. Kiang, Cooperative Extension Agent, Suffolk Co. "Suffolk Living", 6/81, Cooperative Extension Service, USDA, Cornell University.

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